My research program is largely interdisciplinary, incorporating field work on cropping systems ecology and ecosystem modeling in a framework that is geared towards understanding the impacts of climate change and land management on the provisioning of ecosystems goods and services – more specifically crop production, water quantity and quality, carbon sequestration, and climate regulation. My research interests are centered on the following themes:
- To better understand how ecosystems across the globe function as part of the Earth’s carbon, water, nutrient, and energy cycles and how these systems might respond to future changes in human land management and climate.
- To investigate the role of land management (e.g., planting date, hybrid selection, fertilizer management), climate change and variability, and soil type on U.S. crop productivity, agrochemical leaching and transport, and feedbacks to the climate system (e.g., residue management and irrigation).
- To better understand biogeochemical cycling in restored prairies, grasslands, and cropping systems (including new bioenergy crops) across the Midwest U.S., and their potential for sequestering atmospheric carbon.
My teaching program is currently focused on “Agroecosystems and Global Change” – Agronomy 875. I use a “systems” perspective in teaching, and emphasize how individual systems interact with one other, often leading to unpredictable and unintended consequences. This is particularly evident in environmental sciences when meteorology, ecology, biology, and soil science and the economy impact agriculture and vice-versa. I use real-life examples to allow students to actively engage in discussion with each other about examining problems, or to simply decide what is the question that needs to be answered. I highlight “case-studies” of particular geographic regions that are experiencing some type of problem related to human pressure on natural resources. Students in my courses are exposed to rigorous quantitative analysis and statistical methods in field research, but will learn to appreciate how qualitative assessments can be the building blocks to charting a course towards solving a problem.